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CCH Survey Sheds Light on What's Key to Attracting, Keeping Young CPAs at the Firm, and How Firms Match Up
2006 CCH Young Accounting Professionals Survey
(BOCA RATON, FLA., October 31, 2006) – With the ongoing talent war in the accounting profession, and no end in sight, accounting firms have a gap to fill as they try to attract and retain up and coming professionals, according to the findings of the 2006 CCH Young Accounting Professionals Survey conducted for CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business and a leading provider of tax information, software and services (CCHGroup.com). The survey findings were released at the CCH User Conference in Boca Raton this week, as over 500 tax and accounting professionals gathered with CCH executives and industry leaders to learn about and share best practices to build business success.
The new nationwide CCH survey examined the benefits, tools, technology and culture that CPAs with four to seven years of experience want most and asked them to rate how well their firms were meeting these needs. In nearly every instance, fewer than one-half of firms received a very good rating on their ability to deliver on the attributes most important to these up and coming professionals.
“Young CPAs with four to seven years of experience are an important asset to firms that want to grow their business. These individuals have the base experience and are eager to move into the more challenging positions that are both being vacated as baby boomers begin to retire and are being created as new demands on the profession develop,” said Kevin Robert, CCH president and CEO.
Demand for accounting professionals is expected to grow faster than many other professions in the coming years, with an anticipated 18 to 26 percent growth rate through 2014, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This increased demand, however, comes at a time during which the supply of accounting professionals is shrinking fast. With the aging baby boomer population taking its toll on the accounting profession, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) has noted that within 14 years, 75 percent of its membership will be eligible to retire.
“In addition to the fact that there will be a smaller pool of talent to recruit from in the coming years, we also know these young CPAs today are evaluating their options and asking themselves: Should I stay at the firm I’m with, move to another firm, move into corporate work or move into an adjacent field?,” said Robert. “Clearly, firms have a lot of competition and they have to make certain they’re doing all they can to both recruit and retain valued employees.”
The nationwide CCH Young Accounting Professionals Survey, conducted for CCH by Harris Interactive, measured what is important to CPAs with four to seven years of experience and how well their firms were doing at delivering on key attributes in four areas: firm resources and infrastructure; benefits and compensation; professional training and development; and firm culture.
“When you look across all the attributes, you see that young CPAs want the tools they need to get their jobs done; they want to be rewarded for their performance; and, while they want to be challenged, they also want balance between work and personal life,” said CCH Executive Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing Mike Sabbatis. “None of this is particularly surprising, but what is truly concerning is that many young professionals feel their firms aren’t delivering on this. In an environment where the future growth and even survival of the firm relies on attracting and retaining young CPAs in a highly competitive job market, firms must take action now to see what they can do and who they can partner with to help deliver on these expectations.”
Infrastructure Support Shows Resources Lacking
When asked to choose the three most important infrastructure attributes, 67 percent of young CPAs cited Comprehensive Resources to Get the Job Done; 55 percent cited Access to the Latest Technology to Aid Productivity; and 48 percent cited Investment in Leading Tax and Accounting Software as most important, according to the CCH survey.
However, less than one-half of firms received a “very good” rating by young CPAs in delivering on any of these important attributes. In fact, only 39 percent of CPAs highly rated their firm’s ability to provide Comprehensive Resources to Get the Job Done, while only 33 percent felt their firms were doing a very good job when it came to providing Access to the Latest Technology to Aid Productivity. Firms didn’t do much better in the eyes of young CPAs when it came to making Investment in Leading Tax and Accounting Software, with just 41 percent of CPAs rating their firm’s offering as very good.
“This is a technology savvy workforce,” noted Sabbatis. “It’s clear they know that the right technology can improve their productivity and increase the value of their contributions to their firm. It’s frustrating for them when they don’t have access to the tools that can make them more effective and efficient in their work.”
Not surprisingly, the CCH survey found that Ethical Leadership is considered among the most important firm culture attributes by 63 percent of young CPAs. Nearly as important is having a workplace that encourages a Work/Life Balance, with 56 percent of young CPAs seeing this as important. Twenty-four percent also rank High Quality Feedback as among the top three most important firm culture attributes.
Overall, more than one-half (55 percent) of CPAs gave their firms a very good rating when it comes to Ethical Leadership. But only 38 percent of firms get a very good rating on their Work/Life Balance programs and they do even worse when it comes to giving High Quality Feedback, with only 13 percent of CPAs saying their firms do a very good job at this.
Benefits and Compensation: Compensation Leads in Importance
According to the CCH Young Accounting Professionals Survey, the three most important benefits and compensation attributes to young professionals are Compensation, ranked a top-three attribute by 74 percent of respondents; Flexible Hours, ranked among the most important by 51 percent of young CPAs; and Reward Directly on Merit, seen as among the most important by 34 percent of respondents.
However, when asked how well their firms deliver on these attributes, only 19 percent ranked their firm’s offering for Compensation as very good; similarly only 20 percent of CPAs ranked their firms as very good when it came to Reward Directly on Merit. CPAs did give their firms a higher rating when it came to offering Flexible Hours, with 45 percent of respondents rating their firms’ benefits in this area as very good.
Professional Training and Development: Firms Delivering on Important CPE Offerings
When it comes to professional training and development, young CPAs generally indicated their firms were doing a bit better at delivering key support in this area, but still showed room for improvement, according to the CCH Young Accounting Professionals Survey. Support for Continuing Professional Education (CPE), cited by 49 percent of respondents, was identified most often as a top-three training and development attribute by CPAs; Challenging Work Environment, cited by 37 percent of respondents; and Continuous Skill Development, cited by 33 percent of those surveyed.
As for how firms performed, 67 percent of respondents ranked their firm’s Support for CPE as very good; 41 percent also gave their firms a very good rating for offering a Challenging Work Environment; and 32 percent rated their firms Continuous Skill Development as very good.
Why Be a CPA?
In addition to examining attributes important to young CPAs and how well firms are performing, the survey also asked respondents why they became a CPA. Over one-third (37 percent) reported they entered the profession because they thought it offered Good Career Opportunities, while 20 percent did so seeking a Challenging Work Environment. Fifteen percent of respondents each reported Job Stability and Financial Security as the reasons they joined the profession. To Make a Difference was cited by 2 percent of respondents and 1 percent cited Opportunity to Travel, while 10 percent indicated they had Other reasons for becoming a CPA.
“The findings of the CCH survey show a gap between what is most important to young professionals today, and how well firms are doing in meeting those needs. As the tug-of-war for talent in the profession continues, firms must utilize every lever that they have: firm resources and infrastructure; benefits and compensation; professional training and development; and firm culture to ensure they have a competitive edge in finding and keeping the best employees,” said Sabbatis.
About the SurveyThe 2006 CCH Young Accounting Professionals Survey included telephone interviews with 150 CPAs with four to seven years of experience as a CPA in a U.S. firm. The interviews were conducted by Harris Interactive (www.harrisinteractive.com), a leading global market research and consulting firm, from July 11, 2006 through August 4, 2006. The survey reflects experiences of randomly polled accounting firms ranging in size from firms with fewer than five practitioners to those with more than 100 employees.
About CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business
CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business (CCHGroup.com) is a leading provider of tax and accounting law information, software and services. It has served tax, accounting and business professionals and their clients since 1913. Among its market-leading products are The ProSystem fx® Office, CCH® Tax Research NetWork™, Accounting Research Manager® and the U.S. Master Tax Guide®. CCH is based in Riverwoods, Ill.
Wolters Kluwer is a leading global information services and publishing company. The company provides products and services for professionals in the health, tax, accounting, corporate, financial services, legal and regulatory, and education sectors. Wolters Kluwer has annual revenues (2005) of €3.4 billion, employs approximately 18,400 people worldwide and maintains operations across Europe, North America, and Asia Pacific. Wolters Kluwer is headquartered in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Its shares are quoted on the Euronext Amsterdam (WKL) and are included in the AEX and Euronext 100 indices. For more information, visit www.wolterskluwer.com.
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